musicfestivalsaustralia.com - Interview with Kallidad guitarist Jason Janus

September 2021

KALLIDAD are hitting the road to deliver the band's upcoming single to be released in September, but before they packed their bags, we caught up with Jason for a chat about the new song ,"Black Powder", the National Tour ahead and of course, Festivals. 

Jason, Are you excited for the release of ‘Black Powder’, your newest gift to the world in September? 

Yes, of course. The song is an absolute steamroller and it’s so much fun to play. We debuted it at a couple small live shows and people are already hassling us about when they can hear it recorded! The song is pirate themed so there’s a real stomp and groove and energy to it! 

The band has a National Tour that kicks off next week, Are you glad to be getting back to performing in front of real crowds? 

It’s going to be amazing. That said, with the newest round of restrictions it’s highly likely that we won’t be leaving Queensland anytime soon and some of the shows, especially in NSW and VIC are going to be cancelled or rescheduled. It’s so unfortunate, as we booked some of those shows over a year ago when the coast seemed clear! 

 2020 was a year full of uncertainty and change and for some the year came as a blessing and for some a curse. How do you rate your 2020? 

As a band it obviously wasn’t what we hoped for. Major Australian and European tours were cancelled and we spent most of the year stuck at home like so many other Australians. However on a personal level we took our first proper long break ever from music and that was actually relaxing and inspiring to do so many things we haven’t had time for in years. For example- I was able to join my local soccer team, which was impossible when actively touring! 

Small intimate pub style gigs and big stadium events are obviously very different in the energy and audiences, which is easier to engage in great crowd participation? Which do you prefer? Clubs or Stadiums? 

I couldn’t say we have ever played in a real stadium. But we play lots of large outdoor shows all over the world and those are amazing. There’s a huge energy, and usually dozens or hundreds of people discover the band for the very first time at those large festival style events which is awesome. You get to see the shock on their face that they can’t believe what they are seeing and hearing! Those shows are super fun and memorable. 

Clubs are awesome because everybody is there specifically to see Kallidad. They know the band and the songs, they are passionate fans and they have come out of their way to party with us! You get a strong, loyal audience who is super fired up from the get go and you can really engage and communicate and connect. 

Like all things in life, a balance between the two styles of show is ideal! 

That said if I could play in stadiums for the rest of my life I wouldn’t turn it down ;) 

Kallidad has played at some of Australia’s major festivals including Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival. Will we see you play more festivals in the future? 

 Yes of course! We are appearing at Wallaby Creek Festival and Tablelands Folk Festival in Far North Queensland in 2021. And I certainly foresee countless great festival experiences for many years into the future. 

We have some major European festivals rescheduled from 2020 that can hopefully go ahead in 2022! 

What are the best and worst parts of being on a multi artist bill? Do egos ever get in the way? 

I wouldn’t say egos get in the way. But as a non drinker, non smoker, and somebody who is focused on being as high quality a musician as possible on the stage, and as professional as possible off the stage I am sometimes frustrated when people in other groups seem to focus more on partying than music and seem to care more than they themselves have a good time than the audience! 

But it doesn’t bother me, I just do my own thing or go for a walk or go say thank you to our audience rather than get sucked into the backstage sessions! 

Kallidad has a long-standing history of playing masked, which seems to be a trend at the moment. What inspired the decision to keep your identities hidden? And how do you feel about so many people now doing the same? Does it detract from your originality or enhance the band reputation as pioneers? 

We certainly weren’t the first group to wear faceprint so we don’t make any claim to be originators in that regard. It’s just fun to have really strong onstage characters and visuals- way more fun and exciting than just rolling up in jeans! It started as a one-off- we just painted our faces once for a bit of a laugh. The crowd response was so visceral it was super obvious that we had found our visual identity .I would much rather see lots of performers making a real effort to put on a great show. If that includes masks and faceprint and costumes I am all for it! Music is supposed to be fun! 

Your music is all instrumental “no lyrics are necessary to feel the energy and passion behind the music” what inspired you to be a completely instrumental band which is highly unusual in the modern music world? 

We were just playing for fun. The sound was just what we were jamming with at home and people heard it and started booking us almost immediately. 

What has been your favourite event to perform at or the person you have performed with? What's been the highlight in your career so far personally? And why? 

The first time we ever got on a plane to go to a concert (Sydney to Melbourne) was for me a childhood dream come true! I felt like a “real” band that day! (it was on the way to Rainbow Serpent Festival 2012) 

Same as the first time we went to Europe. That was just so exciting! We landed in Barcelona and I felt that what I had been working for my whole life might actually be happening! 

Performing at Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, right before Slash made me feel that Kallidad can achieve anything in future. 

I just love being in a van with the guys, far from home, waking up in a town after a good gig and getting in the car to go to the next one! I could literally do that every day of my life, no problem! So the whole journey has been a highlight. 

We are great mates with the band Tijuana Cartel. They have taken us on lots of tours , helped us a lot and are close friends and mentors. 

 Is there anyone you would like to perform or collab with? 

I am really not interested in collaborations! I am much more interested in trying to refine and perfect the band’s sound and presentation, rather than bring other people in. Sorry to sound antisocial. That’s just how I am. I also never really like when my favourite artists collaborate with others. It’s never as good as the main band! 

Where was your first gig? Was it a success or flop? 

I was at a friend’s 18th birthday party. There was a band playing. Another friend ran over to me breathlessly and said “the band is taking a short break. I asked to borrow their gear. I need you to come RIGHT NOW and play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ so I can sing it.” He had already lined up another friend to play drums. 

I thought this was a terrible idea with no rehearsal and no idea what we were doing. But we did it and it was a raging success. The girls loved it ;) 

In your journey as a performer/group/musician have you changed? Is life much different for you from when you started out? 

 For sure. When we started I was single, in university, working two or three jobs and had few serious responsibilities or commitments. 

Now I am married and the band is a full time enterprise so I have to stay on top of the business side of things as well as trying to be responsible and reliable. But honestly I am happier than ever now, and feel I have more freedom and time to myself. I enjoy pretty much everything I do during the day, which wasn’t the case when I was working crappy jobs in the past just to survive. 

So basically we are a little more grown up but if anything, our passion, appreciation and energy for music has increased because we don’t take it for granted anymore and we know how lucky we are to still be doing it! In the early days it was easy to squander time cause it seemed unlimited. Now we grab every day by the throat, especially after experiencing the lockdowns and realizing this blessing can be taken from us at any time. 

Who in your crew or team deserves a shout out but never gets one? And what is do they do that keeps your world turning? 

My wife Marianna travels with the band and takes care of Kallidad’s merchandise. She has sacrificed her own career to do that. It’s a huge part of what keeps us going and she does an amazing job. 

 What is your favourite Kallidad song to perform? 

Whichever is the newest one! I love road testing material and giving the band the challenge of making sure the new songs are better than the existing ones! It’s nice to look down at the set list and see a brand new tune because it keeps you very much on your toes and in the moment! 

What's next for you? What can we look forward to from Kallidad? 

If the restrictions play out how it appears they will, and some of our interstate shows are cancelled or rescheduled, I expect we will have time to release a full album by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

Witnessing the live performance of the heavy metal Mexican-inspired musos is something everyone has to experience when they get the chance. The three boys from Sydney delve deep into their alter egos of Senor Bang Bang, The Raven and Jacinko, transformed with their famous Dia de Muertos painted faces and crazy eyes. The rarity of finding a purely instrumental band these days able to get people dancing as heavily as they do to Kallidad is astounding. Their energy and fingerpicking are second to none and there wouldn’t be a band in the world that would be a more fitting opener for the headliners of the night... The gig has every requirement to ensure Sunshine Coast punters will be talking about this night for weeks to come.” - Stephanie Oakes

themusic.com.au

  SYDNEY band Kallidad will continue its love affair with Western Australia this weekend when it performs in Margaret River.   The band's three amigos, known to fans as Jacinko, Senor Bang Bang and Pollo Negro, describe their music as 'Mexican mariachi metal'.   Their influences include Met allica, Tool, Led Zeppelin and Slipknot, among many. They also share a special bond with Tijuana Cartel, who took them on some of their very first tours to Byron Bay and Bellingen.   We couldn't have done without them," Senor Bang Bang said.   They're a brilliant band who we really look up to and there are plenty of similarities [between us], especially the Spanish guitar.   Kallidad has toured Europe and Australia and performed at festivals such as Rainbow Serpent and Nannup Festival. The trio has been asked to play at Dwellingup's Nanga Festival later this year, which will mark their third trip to WA in 12 months.   See them live at Settlers Tavern, Margaret River on Saturday and Sunday.  ” - Zannia Yakas

Margaret River Mail

Jacinko, Raven and Senor Bang Bang, the alter ego of mex metal trio Kallidad. Mix metal, mariachi, and flamenco. Take two guitars, a cajon drum box. Add the scary skeleton face paint designs of Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations. The result is Kallidad. The group formed in Bondi and are building up a following both here and overseas. Fingers fly up and down the frets, the notes anchored and centred by Senor Bang Bang's polyrhythmic drumming. The trio hail from Sydney, school friends who developed a liking of the same music, the danceable frenetic mariachi. Between they have an eclectic mix of musical tastes from reggae to blues and rock, Mozart to metal. On the scene for just a couple of years, they've released one album to date, The Whack, and plan to record again shortly. Their energy and dexterity easily won over the Nannup Music Festival goers. ” - Sharon Kennedy

ABC South West WA

La visión: three faces styled in the vein of dia de Los Muertos. Raw sounds of dos guitarras and a modified cajón madly careening across the evening air amidst the tinkling of Don Esquis Lagers and shots of tequila. It is Kiss fused with mexicano flamenco – but lacking in exposed tongues. It is fiery acoustic guitarra and inflamed box drumming. Behold incredibly nimble fingers roaming freely across the neck and heavy gauge nylon strings with all the rawness and ferocity of Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix or James Hetfield. Combine this with the agile dexterity of Alan Banks or Slava Grigoryan whilst surrounded by rough-hewn rich textures of the modified cajón, and it is a sound quite unlike any other. Certainly, the sonority of this instrumental música is refreshing and new, and I am #fascinated.  To celebrate the launch of taking over West End, Beach Burrito Co imported Sydney amigos Kallidad to Brisbane for a night thick with face painting, street art, tequila and burritos. A trio light on the instruments but heavy on the intensity, Kallidad proved an invigorating tonic for such an #illustrious opening.   True to its nature, BBCo in West End has continued with the #arbitrary countercultures of surfing, skating and street art, keeping to the gay tinctures and earthy tones synonymous to Mexicano cultura. BBCo sustains the chipper attitude and cheery inflections successfully established in Fortitude Valley, but keeps in touch with the bohemian culture of West End. It’s like a lean-to on Boundary Street, the gay colours a brilliant standout day and night, with palm trees swaying and the décor #nostalgic but nowhere near passé.  Add the self-proclaimed heavy metal Mexican #mariachi trio styled as fast, furious flamenco fire, and the opening of Beach Burrito Company West End is a truly #singular occasion. It's an occasion that one can take away with them, whether leaving the doors with a takeaway burrito or a copy of Kallidad's independently produced and distrbuted album 'Whack'. The uniqueness of BBCo’s vibe and buzz and the penchant in finding such #exclusive entertainment is an indication of the thought BBCo has put into their brand, not to mention, a sign of good times on the horizon to come. So here's to the Sol and Patron: #Salud!” - Lady Lex

My City Life

My co-food runner (does this word exist?) told me while we were working “you’re gonna love them!”. Well, I am usually very skeptical when someone tells me that and with good reason: I have been so many times disappointed by the fact that people believe I like shitty music (I know I am being arrogant). But some people tend to believe that singing barefoot, wearing monkey costumes, throwing in randomly some ukuleles or voices of children yapping can make a band cool (ok now I sound contemptuous). Anyway, it took only two Spanish guitars and a cajon to turn my skepticism into complete admiration. Kallidad is an instrumental trio from Bondi which plays something I would describe as progressive-flamenco-metal-on-acoustic-guitars. On stage, they put on paint like some metal/hard rock bands, but leave out spandex attires. Thanks! (No offense KISS fans). What they make is brilliant and dexterous. I am not a music expert but I can’t think of anything else but Rodrigo y Gabriela for the eclectic blend of flamenco, reggae, rock but with a stronger metal influence.It is maybe less technical than the Mexican duo, but there is more fiesta for sure. With their skeleton face paint, they even involved a captivated and dancing crowd in their melodic and feverish delirium, by performing guitar slides, picking and tapping, with everything they found at the bar from glasses to people’s hands. I just cannot believe they are not signed yet.” - opossum

Warzik Blog

Having seen this three piece Mexican siesta band with faces painted in day of the dead style skulls at my very first AP, I was beyond excited to be in the audience in another one of their performances. Sometimes you hear something and without thinking, as though your body in being beckoned, you just have to get up and dance and feel the music, both as an individual and collectively in a room full of bodies. That night at the Oxford Art Factory, Kallidad had awoken a synergy that reverberated all over the room and could be felt from within the very depths of all of those who were on their feet dancing and really getting into the music. By the end of their set, the number of fans that they had increased by 600 and I have become one of them.” - Ak Akkawi

Kaleidopress

As stage time neared for headliners Kallidad the watchers and hearers ballooned in numbers. The freshly face painted trio were warmly greeted as old friends as they marched on stage to perform their Mexican magic. Fresh from their Fairbridge Festival success they continually improvise the recorded songs so you never really hear the same tune exactly twice over. This helps them to stay  fresh and enthused, and with Jackinko (Jason) forever on the move and Raven (Tom) gracefully gliding over the stage it’s also a show of movement and light. Senior Bang Bang (Jules) is also making more trips from the signature Boom Box to the drum kit so at times the sound fills out. His pulsing and rolling rhythmic style adding depth to favorites and new tunes alike. Songs titles included “Poco Loco”, “Amigos! Glorious! Amigos! Victorious!”, “Glameretto”, and dedicated to WA “The Wild, Wild Western”. As well as being their last WA show of this particular tour leg it was their largest indoor venue to date. The light show of the Rosemount was nothing short of spectacular.  The enormity of the event also touched the band. Several times Jason gave heart felt Thanks to everyone for making the effort to come out on a Wednesday night. Kallidad were also joined by their famed Belly Dancing crew. The story was shared of how the acclaimed addition to the Kallidad party actually came about. The Belly Dancing teacher and troupe leader, having seen them at Nannup in 2014, asked if it was OK to use their music as a backdrop for lessons. Being caring and sharing guys they gave the nod. So when they returned to WA there was a troupe of delectable ladies ready to gyrate, rotate and whirl with them on stage - if the offer was acceptable. As you would expect, quicker than a mongoose up Senior Bang Bang’s trouser leg the offer was agreed to. Such is the bond and dedication of all that one of the dancers, Sarah, spent her last night in Perth before departing for overseas adventures dancing on stage with the merry gang. The one hour and thirty five minute set came to a close just before midnight with the crowd refusing to leave without one final encore. Heading back for their home town of Sydney the next day one can only hope Kallidad return soon. If the rumored Alice Cooper/Motley Crue support slot at the Perth Arena, 23rd May, gig doesn’t come off then hopefully it will be before the withdrawal symptoms become unbearable. Now for the sad news. Just in case your wondering why there are no Kallidad pix supporting this review as I clicked the shutter for the first shot the battery died. The good news is the gig was being recorded for video! With Kallidad shows magic happens!” - Brian Higgins

Ausland181

The afternoon also included a sweet experience of helping connect the Mexican Death Fiesta Mayhem trio of Kallidad with Pirate 88 Freo. Subsequently being in the newly opened John Butler studio for a flamingo fast interview was a merited occurrence. The buzz of the afternoon settled into the Youthopia stage for the unique recipe of Reggie, rock, jazz and folk of six piece youthful Raksha. The previous day they had the honour of being the first act for the opening of the John Butler recording studios in Fairbridge Village. Preparing for the arrival of Pirate 88 Freo friends Kallidad I arrived at the Hoopla stage with The Rouges in mid-set. The volume of the rebellious audience was only matched by the fiery passion of the performance of the onstage posse. It was dancing-beer-hall atmosphere that had the volume turned up. I wonder if Kallidad were a tad nervous at following such an exploding presentation? The audience thinned and were replaced in numbers as the death masked trio strolled on keen to let their music do the talking. Their six string draw being as fast as any famed Western gun slinger. They rampaged through their set with the high volume dancing audience reaching decibel limits that must have heard in Pinjarra. A performance that placed Kallidad in a leading position to be voted “Best Performer of the Festival”.” - Brian Higgins

Ausland181

Kallidad’s crazy mexicarnivale hits SEQ Kallidad is Sydney’s answer to flamenco-fuelled fiesta with a generous dose of Mexicarnivale culture thrown in for good measure. The three-piece have been touring the country with festivals and headlining gigs from east to west (some of them sold out) as well as a bunch of dates with Gold Coast’s Tijuana Cartel. If you haven’t seen or heard their music before, it’s worth the google effort. The name of their soon to be released album Death Fiesta hints at the style of music they’ve added their own flourish to. So before you read this Q+A I strongly recommend you youtube the hell out of Kallidad, because it’s hard to describe their schtick in words – let’s just say they take the whole Dia de Los Muertos thing to a whole new level, even though they tell me they’ve never been to Mexico. Anyway, I got the chance to exchange a few words with Jason Contos (guitar) from Kallidad before they hit the east coast.   The whole Dia de Los Muertos thing – is there any special significance for you all? No actually! Just as a one off we asked a facepainter to decorate our faces for a single gig. She chose the Day of the Dead cause she thought it matched our music. It was only meant to be a single show- but it stuck! Like many things about this band, it was random and unplanned! Where did you learn to play that flamenco style guitar? The first time I saw a flamenco guitarist, he showed me four chords, a strumming pattern, and told me to listen to Rodrigo y Gabriela. Gabriela has an instructional DVD where she explains the crazy strumming technique. Since then we have just been musical magpies- borrowing from everywhere.   How do people react to your live show when they see it for the first time?  They always say “I wasn’t expecting that!”   Your last Queensland tour was a complete wash-out. Tell me what happened?  A cyclone threat led to multiple gigs being cancelled…. we ended up holing down in a rental flat for three days, unable to leave due to weather, writing a new song! It sucked but we laughed a lot!   Why aren’t you coming to the Gold Coast on this tour?  Plenty of the gigs are an easy drive from the Gold Coast! It’s always a bit of a zig zag when you tour and you can’t be everywhere at once! We’ll play Gold Coast proper next time! You started out busking in Sydney – how important is that street performance grounding? I believe it is the single best thing you can do.   What advice would you give to young musicians starting out?  Dont be solo, be in a band. And busk!   What’s the one question you were hoping I’d ask you? Would you like a ride in my spaceship?” - Samantha Morris

BlankGC

Alla loro seconda volta al Buskers Festival sono invece i Kallidad, gruppo australiano che nella passata edizione del festival, ha vinto il contest “Vota il tuo musicista preferito”. Cosa vi piace di più di questo Festival? «Veramente, ci piace ogni cosa di Ferrara. Il pubblico, lo staff del Festival e tutte le performances. Abbiamo avuto un ottimo riscontro a Ferrara, e naturalmente torniamo volentieri. Anche le altre performances nelle altre città, come Lugo e Comacchio, sono fantastiche!», risponde Jason Contos. Che musica proponete? «Un mix di flamenco con heavy metal e molti altri suoni, come soul e funk». Siete buskers anche in Australia? «Lo eravamo, ora ci esibiamo in club e festival. Quest’anno ci siamo esibiti in club e bar della Nuova Zelanda, e in novembre andremo in Giappone!», spiega Jason, che conclude «la musica è un modo per connettersi, anche a un livello che va oltre la nostra realtà visibile».(v.c.)” - unknown

La Nuova Ferrara, Italy

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